Alaskan Malamute Temperament: Resilient independence paired with a people-loving heart
For many years, the Alaskan Malamute has been ranked the 54th most popular dog breed in the United States. They were vital for the survival of tribes in Alaska and a classic worker. So, there's a good chance this breed has awoken your interest, and your fingers itch to cuddle that fluffy coat.
But, before you do, let's ensure the Alaskan Malamute fits your lifestyle and needs--from size considerations and temperament to potential health issues. Then, this blog will give you some ideas and inspiration if this dog breed is the right choice. Let's dive right in!
History of the Alaskan Malamute
The Malamuit Inupiaq people in western Alaska have bred this state dog of Alaska as a freight dog. Although a bit hazy, the estimated breeding dates as far back as 4,000-4,500 years ago. The Alaskan Malamute was known for pulling heavy freight over icy terrain. Excellent work for their strength, resilience, and tremendous endurance. They were vital for the survival of the tribe.
The Alaskan Malamute is a basal dog breed, meaning it influenced the development of other modern-day species. As a result, they’re one of the oldest sledge dogs globally.
During the Gold Rush times, other parts of the Americas discovered this dog as a working dog. They transported necessary supplies over mountain passes. Unfortunately, many pure-bred Malamutes have been cross bred during the time for profit taking. The Second World War was also not kind to the Malamute. The Malamute we know today was only saved due to a few breeders coming together with around 30-40 dogs to save the breed.
The Malamute is sometimes confused with the Siberian Husky.
What are the differences between a Husky and the Alaskan Malamute?
Although these dogs can look similar in their appearance, they're two separate breeds. However, they share that they're both bred for cold conditions. Pulling a sledge is their second nature.
Alaskan Malamutes have been bred for their strength and endurance. As a result, Malamutes are the classic working dog.
Huskies are runners and a bit smaller. This is because they have been bred for speed. There are apparent weight and height differences between both breeds. Malamutes are heavier and taller at the withers than Huskies.
Malamutes also don't have the gene for different coloured eyes like the Husky.
Malamutes look very similar to a wolf. They have a deep chest with a well-muscled body and a bulky muzzle with erect ears.
Their bushy tail allows them to cover their nose during cold weather, which is very helpful in sub-zero conditions.
Alaskan Malamute registrations in the UK 2023
In 2021, 323 Alaskan Malamutes were registered with the UK Kennel Club. Covid gave the numbers a good boost. 2022 saw 265 registrations, a 17% decrease compared to the previous year. The Alaskan Malamute is not seen outside on your regular walk. If you see one outside, make sure to admire its beauty.
Source: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/2408/quarterly-breed-stats-working.pdf updated March 2023
Now that we have a good idea of the breeding purpose, let's look at your life with an Alaskan Malamute.
What is the Temperament of the Alaskan Malamute?
Malamutes love pulling a sledge or a cart. It's so deeply ingrained in their blood that it will be their day's highlight. Very likely, you will not need to train them to pull anything. It will come naturally.
Due to their nature and big size, they require daily exercise exceeding 2 hours. The house and garden should be big enough for the dog to run around and feel free. The fence around your garden must be a sufficiently strong one. The world is their backyard; not many barriers can hold them effectively.
Malamutes have a surprisingly slow metabolism; hence, the proper feeding schedule must be followed. Otherwise, you might end up with an obese Malamute. Their stomach doesn't know an end to food. Therefore, they will eat till they drop.
Malamutes can display food aggression and same-sex aggression. This is often the case with dogs bred to sustain themselves independently. Therefore, if you have several dogs, feeding them separately is recommended, even if they grew up together.
Socialise your puppy early. Malamutes can be dominant and have a high prey drive. It is not recommended to take them off the lead for a walk.
Lacking socialisation can lead to a disobedient and potentially aggressive dog. Although it's not very common, you want to minimise the potential as much as possible. It will be tough to get a 40kg dog under control. That doesn't mean Malamutes can't live with smaller animals. You need to socialise both animals from 8 weeks onwards.
Malamutes can be hard to train and require a firm but gentle hand. They're not known for being the most obedient dog breed and generally prefer to follow commands when there is something in for them in return. A certain wildness is in them, which also makes out the charm of this breed.
There is good news on the housebreak side of things. Alaskan Malamutes love their coat clean, and you will often see them licking their paws. This instinct does tend to make the house training relatively quick compared with other breeds.
Malamutes will see you as their pack leader. These are not dogs that can be left alone for long hours. Howling and destructive behaviour can then be the output of a dog suffering from separation anxiety.
There are also Malamutes with very long and woolly coats. This is not the breed standard as a woolly Malamute tends to collect ice between paws which can cause lameness or cause frostbite where ice parts the coat. We are unsure why the gene survived, but it is present in some little puppies, although recessive.
Longer coats need daily brushing to keep them tidy and avoid matting. The shorter coats are maintained with a weekly brushing. But either way, these dogs can shed. You might want to look at other breeds if you're very particular about cleanliness. If you don't mind the shedding, your vacuum cleaner will soon become your second best friend.
Treated with love and care, a Malamute puppy will grow into a loving, kind, people-orientated dog with an outstanding temperament. They're so friendly and affectionate that they will usually not make for an excellent watchdog as they want to please and make friends. Their size is maybe what can intimidate an intruder, but that's about it.
Malamutes are also quiet dogs who don't bark very often. Instead, they will communicate with you with a "woo woo". They're noble and loyal and will love participating in family activities. They tend to bond with all members of the family very well.
If you have a big house and garden, have a patient, gentle but firm hand, and an active family, the Mallie might be the dog for you. However, if you're a novice dog owner, gaining knowledge and hands-on experience with giant and hard-to-train dogs would be beneficial.
Alaskan Malamute temperament in a nutshell
Needs a big house and garden to roam around and do not feel enclosed
A people-orientated dog who likes to be around their owner
High-energy dogs that require vigorous exercise and a high, secure fence
Can portray food aggression and same-sex aggression
Training needs to be approached differently due to their intelligence paired with stubbornness. Generally not suited for first-time dog owners
Potential health issues in the Alaskan Malamute breed
Alaskan Malamutes are a relatively healthy breed. However, there are some hereditary diseases that prospective owners should be aware of. As a new owner, you should also be prepared to pay medical expenses that come with the breed. The sheer size of this dog will make medical treatment very expensive. Therefore, you should always opt for comprehensive insurance with the Malamute.
Hereditary diseases are genetically predisposed. For this reason, it's essential always to choose a reputable breeder who has screened their dog's DNA and knows from which family they come. In addition, good pre-work and research can help minimise any of the below upsetting conditions.
Alaskan Malamute Polyneuropathy (AM-PN) is a recessive neuromuscular disease. It can develop gait in limbs, sometimes affecting muscles or degrading nerve fibres.
Hip dysplasia is another disease that the puppy's parent should have been screened for. It's a deformity of the hip socket which can lead to arthritis later in life. This can devastate a Malamute who loves to run and pull.
They can also be affected by dwarfism, known as chondrodysplasia, which leads to shortened front limbs.
Due to their deep and broad chest, they can also be prone to bloat.
A condition called Hypothyroidism can also be present. It leads to an underactive thyroid, causing weight, skin, and energy levels problems.
Many of these conditions can be treated if caught early, but working with a reliable veterinarian familiar with this breed is essential to ensure your dog receives proper care.
Most diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means the puppy must inherit both parents' genes to become affected. The puppy becomes a carrier if the mutation is only present in one parent. Hence, choosing a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their litters is vital.
The more aware you are of these diseases, the higher the chances you can prolong your dog’s life if problems arise. Same as with your child, be aware of all required vaccinations and risks outside your home. This blog post, for example, outlines all toxic spring plants that can harm your dog.
Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues, when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber playthings like chew bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation and are not breathable like natural materials. Swap out those harmful materials with eco-friendly pet products from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend. Breathable, eco-friendly and sustainable!
Alaskan Malamute Fun facts
In 1984, the 100th anniversary of the American Kennel Club, 4 stamps with 8 dogs were featured for the first time. The dog breeds included were: The Beagle, Boston Terrier, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, American Foxhound, a Black and Tan Coonhound, the Collie and last but not least, the Alaskan Malamute. This was to commemorate their importance to the development of American culture and manifest a place in society.
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The Alaskan Malamute has a loyal and brave temperament that can make an excellent pet for the right person. However, they're not suited for just anybody. So before you bring them into your home, it's important to read beyond this article, consult a breeder and speak to a vet.
Alaskan Malamute Summary Info box
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig